Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wonkblog Interview On Work And Disability

Harold Pollack, Washington Post Wonkblog - January 24, 2014

This was a very nice surprise. I’ve never seen the intricacies of disability, employment, benefits, and “work incentives” discussed so clearly and accurately in a “mainstream” article.

I think that the key was structuring the article around an interview with an expert on disability, work, and benefits … someone who has disabilities and uses work incentives in his personal life. I even appreciated how Pollack asked Entwisle some personal questions about his disability. He asked carefully, respectfully, and with a purpose greater than intrusive curiosity. Starting with Entwisle’s day-to-day routines made the financial and policy details they were there to discuss more meaningful and real.

I found it interesting, too, that the interviewer, Pollack, immediately zeroed in on some of the illogical side effects of disability employment policy ... "disincentives" that people with disabilities have been complaining about for decades. Sometimes it's annoying when non-disabled people "discover" injustices we've known about for a long time. But somehow, this time, Pollack's surprise and bit of incredulousness just felt like a validation.

The only thing that made me a little uncomfortable is that Entwisle seems to come from a mindset where “employment” means well-paying, credentialed, white-collar employment. Since he’s a policy analyst, maybe that’s natural. But I do wish he had said more about people for whom “employment” means minimum wage, irregular hours, and sporadic employment. Maybe Wonkblog can do a followup interview someday to cover more bases.

If you want to understand how existing work incentives programs work, this is a very good place to start.

More of this please!

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